Mariquita Farm

Julia's Terra Madre Page 2004

posted Nov. 8th, 2004

The next time you're counting sheep to go to sleep, you might consider counting a heritage breed of sheep. If you don't know about heritage sheep, I know just the sheep farmer in Ireland you can talk with. I met him at Terra Madre in Turin, Italy, a gathering that was an ambitious and visionary attempt that succeeded in gathering 5000 farmers, fisherpeople, cheesemakers, and ranchers from around the world to share ideas and trade notes about the future of local and sustainable food production in their own communities. I am honored to have been part of this remarkable conference.

Why did this conference take place in Italy? Terra Madre was the brain child of Slow Food international. Slow Food started in Italy in 1986 Click here to read about the birth of this organization

I met people who were vegetable farmers, cattle ranchers, grain growers, jam makers, fisherman, tropical fruit growers. I talked with folks from northern Australia, Cuba, Peru, Mexico, Mali, Argentina, Canada, England, The Philippines, Spain, Texas, Salinas (CA), New Hampshire, and Senegal.

This conference was so broad in scope it's difficult to catch in a snapshot but it was so important it would be a shame not to try. Below are some vignettes of my experiences at Terra Madre and some links to what others have written about this conference.

Vignette #1: Zipping across Northern Italy in a rented car with two other farmers, Lee James of Tierra Vegetables and Annabelle Lenderink of La Tercera Farm. Annabelle is Dutch, speaks 6 languages, and has traveled to and driven around Italy before, so Lee and I tagged along while Annabelle drove and spoke Italian. Besides the hazelnut gelato Lee and I insisted on seeking out in every town we passed, we also visited 2 farms thanks to Annabelle's Italian seed salesman friend: Davide. Here are some photos with captions from our two farm visits.

Vignette #2: During Terra Madre Annabelle, Lee and I stayed with several other farmers in the town of Carmagnola, 45 minutes south of Turin. This is an agricultural town about the same size as my own Watsonville, about 30,000 people. Carmagnola is famous for its sweet red bell peppers. The three of us had a blast getting to know two pepper farmers: Roberto and Livio. They showed us their farms, hoop houses, pepper plants, and farm equipment. They both introduced us to their parents, and in Roberto's case, his grandparents. They gave us some Carmagnola pepper seeds, made us coffees and served congnac. They made jokes in Italian that Annabelle translated, and suffered amiably as Lee and I tried to use our Spanish to communicate. Roberto swears he won't ever fly a plane, and since he can't drive his car to California we'll just have to visit him again in Italy, but we hope for a visit from Livio in the next year or so. Coming next week, Vignettes #3 & 4

Prince Charles' Speech at Terra Madre

Slow Food USA's page about Terra Madre

What my friend Steve Sando had to say about his trip to Terra Madre (He's also known as the Rancho Gordo Guy)

My Own Terra Madre Report for

Dana Bowen of the New York Times wrote an article about Terra Madre in the food section on Oct. 27th. Just in case you're a hopeless foodie who saves food sections like me you can look it up, or visit your local library.'s take on Terra Madre (I found this article by Googling.)

Parla Italiano?


This is a typical Carmagnola pepper, the kind that Livio and Roberto grow.

Terra Madre Photos

Terra Madre was an international conference but it was also a place for many of us from North America to talk, exchange ideas, reunite... From L to R: Tom Willey of T & D Willey Farms, my friends but not my relations (they have one L too many), Julia W. (me), Michael Ableman: farmer/author, and Bob Quinn, the guy who brought us Kamut, a funny and down to earth Montana grain farmer.
Here is our friend Annabelle Lenderink of Bolinas, CA and Yalema of Mali. They are both small scale vegetable farmers. Annabelle speaks French fluently so she heard about Yalema's life, and translated some for me.
Annabelle, the Dutch farmer currently living in Bolinas CA, speaks Italian, is here talking about purslane/verdolaga with Quaggio, a vegetable farmer who lives near Chioggia, south of Venice. He was delighted when 3 Americani dropped in on his scene to see his farm: it meant he could take an hour out of his day of working and give us the full tour.
This is Roberto Gerbino, one of the 2 Carmagnola pepper farmers that showed Annabelle, Lee and I around their farms and town. Roberto was very interested to hear that his hoophouses were so much like ours back home: unheated and low enough so that no permits were required (this fact truly blew him away: that in the U.S. they have rules and permits about greenhouses??!!)
This is Livio, Roberto's friend and collegue in pepper farming. The only time the crazy conference schedule would let us visit Livio's farm was at 6:30 on Sunday morning, here he is making café for us before the early morning tour.


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